For the last few years I’m doing consulting for various startups and web companies, mostly for server-side development using Java, Groovy, Grails, etc. Few months ago I’ve contacted Jose Comboni, from San Mateo, CA, who was looking for a consultant for French company called Smartpaper (founded by Arnaud Saint-Paul and Gerard Ayache). The company has been moving to US, with a new name “Smartsy” (or Smartsy Corp). We made a deal, signed an agreement, and started working.
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Smartsy – is a corp registered in California, US. Previously called as Smartpaper, and Smartsystem, and was working in France. Smartsy is a mobile app for iOS and Android + web application based on Grails.
- Arnaud Saint-Paul – CEO, running US branch
- Gerard Ayache – CEO
- Jose Comboni – VP of Engineering
- Eric Seulliet – president, CFO
It was strange that nobody was really concerned about project, fast results, etc. It takes days to receive answer for urgent questions, and about a month to get all details. It’s common for enterprise, but unusual for startup which is trying to save each cent and get result as fast as possible.
More strange was that some parts of the project were lost. Just an outdated version in “zip” file, no git/svn, no history, nothing. I mean, previous developer just didn’t provide sources for his last work, so we had only compiled binary on test server, and an outdated snapshot of sources. It was my fault that I didn’t pay attention to this facts.
After some time I’ve realized that they aren’t going to pay by contact, on my questions about payment they always had a different answer why they didn’t make a payment by the moment. There were:
- Can’t contact CFO (Eric Seulliet)
- CFO is on vacation
- Bank was closed at those days (for holidays)
- CEO is on vacation
- Answered with ‘please confirm that you’ve receiving payment’, meaning that they transferred the money. Good trick Jose, but I didn’t receive any payment, and you knew that Smartsy even didn’t send the money.
- And finally, they said that they don’t have money, at all. They’re looking for investor, and can’t pay until they will receive money from investor. Wow!
I fully understand what is startup, but there is different situation:
- It’s not a classic startup, it’s a new business for a group of successful entrepreneurs (as they said), who has the money, more that enough money, but don’t want to spend own money, only investor’s money (as they said, too)
- They made agreement, told that they have money for the job, and meaning that it’s not a startup, but a work for well-established company (Arnaud even told me that they were choosed as a partners to UK Olympic Games)
- They were trying to make their problems became my problems. If they fail with investments – they can just say ‘sorry, we didn’t get the investments, and it’s your problem now’
- Too much lie, each time a new story, a new lie. Instead of telling truth from the beginning. Unprofessional people, who don’t care about making a real business
Trying to get the money
I’ve asked them many times to make any proof, that they’re going to pay. I tried to find a solution, I was asking about splitting payment into few smaller parts, starting from $1000 for a first payment. Not a big money. Arnaud said that they don’t have even $1000. Isn’t it weird that such “successful entrepreneur” just can’t find $1000? I met Arnaud Saint-Paul, his shoes costs more. He mentioned also, that he had a meeting with customers at “TC Disrupt SF 2012 Conference”, as I know, this conference costs about $3000 per person. And also, he is accredited US investor. Oh, really?
Both Eric Seulliet and Gerard Ayache just ignored this situation, I didn’t receive any response on my emails.
For this moment the only way I see is to go to attorney. I guess they were sure that I can’t do it, because they hired a remote consultant, living somewhere far from US. But I came to US, Arnaud looked surpised, because he wasn’t ready to pay. And he is still not ready, or don’t want to, thinking that I’ll leave it as is. Btw, he mentioned that attorney is useless, because Smartsy Corp is a new company (in US), and just don’t have any money in a bank.
Actually It’s a big problem for me. It takes so much time, so much energy, trip is really expensive, I already spent months to trying to get money. But I can’t leave it as is, Arnaud and Jose made too many problems for me. And I hope that by publishing this post, I’m going to help a lot of people who is planning to work with these people. So, if you’re iOS, Android os Grails developer, or business partner of Smartsy (or other company by Arnaud Saint-Paul) be prepared.
Also, I’m wondering, what’s wrong with these guys? How they trying to make business in US if they have no respect for business ethics? And how many people got the same problem after working with this guys?
Before starting to work with a new client, I always google for the company name. Everything was fine at that moment. Jose Comboni was clear, Smartsy was a new name (name of CEO was hidden from me). Now I understand that it was because Arnaud has created a new company (with a new name) and used a new representative (Jose Comboni) for the company, so googling was useless. After reading comments, I see that it’s common situation, and, as everyone there said, they has never been paid attention to paying money, because they know that they can always close the company, and create a new one.
A lot of people has responded to this post, and, if everything is truth, this group of people made a lot of not-so-legal stuff. So, now I’m gathering all details and facts about company (all previous names, owners, etc), about partners that received or not received money, potential scam/fraud actions, etc. If you know something, please let me know. My email is email@example.com
UPDATE 3 / Nov 2012
Put all new details into one page – http://igorartamonov.com/2012/11/smart-biz-of-arnaud-saint-paul-and-eric-seulliet/
And yes, this guys still telling me that they don’t have money to pay.
UPDATE 4 / 25 Jun 2013
Arnaud Saint-Paul has hired a law firm, and now trying to intemidate me into removing this blog posts. And also has a new reason: “not paying because I wrote that he is not paying“. Brilliant!
He owes this money for about a year, but he still avoid making the payment. Actually he agreed that he owes money, but say like “will pay sometime in the future“. What’s funny, Arnaud agreed to pay to attorney, but not to a software engineer.
UPDATE 5 / 23 Jul 2013
Finally, Smartsy Corp paid for the job I did for them. Year later after job was done, and dozens of emails and calls.
Thanks to my blog, it’s only reason why they has followed agreement. So, if you’re going to work with this guys – be prepared.